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Rabbits are very popular pets to keep these days, which is hardly surprising because they are incredibly loveable little creatures to have around whether you keep them outdoors or as house rabbits. One way to make sure your pet rabbit is in good health and that all their needs are being cared for on a regular basis, is to make yourself a “rabbit calendar”. If the kids are involved, a calendar can prove to be a really fun and educational way of taking care of a pet bunny.
As we are already well into the year, you might want to start your calendar at the beginning of June and write down all the important things that need to be done and seen to as the warmer weather starts to set in. Below is an example of the sort of calendar you could create for the care of your pet bunny.
With the warmer weather just around the corner, it's important to avoid a situation where your pet might get heatstroke. In the wild rabbits can get underground where it is a lot cooler, but domestic rabbits cannot so it's important to make sure their hutches and their runs are in a well shaded area that boast a lot of air circulating through them. Make sure your pet has a larger water container too and this needs to be filled with plenty of fresh, clean water on a daily basis – and checked throughout the day too! Water and feed bowls need to be cleaned more frequently when the weather is hotter as a way to avoid any algae growing on and in them.
It is also time to get your rabbit to the vet for their Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) vaccination which they need every twelve months.
This is a good time to check your rabbits' teeth, although this should be done regularly throughout the year to make sure nothing horrible is going on. The more often you do this, the easier it becomes because your pet will get used to the process and not object so much to having it done. The earlier you spot a dental problem, the easier it is to treat.
To check incisors, all you have to do is gently part your rabbit's upper lip so you can see the upper and lower front teeth. They should be symmetrical and the colour should be white to yellowish. The upper teeth should have shallow vertical grooves on them.
The things to look out for are any horizontal barring or grooving which means the teeth are too long or may even be distorted, in which case they would need looking at by a vet.
When it comes to back teeth known as cheek teeth, these are a little harder to examine which means a trip to the vet could be in order. However, with this said if you run your fingers over the bones of the jaw, you may be able to feel if there is a dental problem on a back tooth – you should ask your vet to show you how to do this when you take your pet in for a dental check-up.
It's a good time to give a rabbit hutch a really good clean, using eco-friendly disinfectants or even some vinegar!
Sometimes the hottest days are in August so it's important to make sure your pet rabbit stays cool. If the weather is extremely hot, it might be idea to put a fan close to the cage or if this is not feasible, think about putting bottles of frozen water wrapped in towels that your rabbit can lie close to so they stay nice and cool.
This is a good time of the year to give your bunny a good once over to make sure they don't have any mites, fleas, lice or ticks on them – if they do, then make sure you treat your pet with a product you get from your vet. The best time to treat them is in the cool of the evening!
If the weather has been wet during the summer, the chances are there will be lots of biting insects around in September. Mosquitoes and fleas both carry the dreaded myxomatosis which means insect control at this time of the year is essential for the well-being of your bunny. Use safe repellents that you can either get through your vet or a good reputable pet store. Ticks are particularly bad when the weather conditions are humid – so you need to check over your bunny for them on a regular basis.
This is the right time of the year to give your bunny a good grooming session. It's almost as important in the autumn as it is in the spring although some long haired breeds need more grooming than other shorter haired rabbits. However, regular grooming throughout the year is crucial.
This is the time of the year when the grass usually stops growing, it's when soil temperatures drop to below 6 degrees centigrade and though rabbits can acclimatise to the colder weather, you have to make sure they have plenty of clean, fresh straw in their hutches if they live outdoors. It's the time of the year when you will have to start feeding them more good quality hay too because they will be not getting much goodness out of what little grass there might be.
The colder weather normally sets in during the month of December which means you may find water bottles frequently frozen. The only way around this is to refill them more often with warm water and to insulate them using some sort of wrap. It is also the time to add extra insulation to outdoor hutches and to place something on the front of the wire mesh to keep draughts out. You have to be a little careful not to overdo this though, because you don't want the hutch too stuffy either. If you keep you pet rabbit indoors, make sure they don't get too hot in centrally heated homes!
January is good time of the year to do a little claw trimming, although you should keep an eye on your pets claws all through the year, especially if they are kept on soft surfaces in which case it has to be a monthly task. The most important claw to check is the innermost one found on front feet because these tend to curl round into the skin if not clipped regularly. If you don't feel happy about trimming claws, then take your pet bunny to the vet where a nurse will usually do this.
February is normally the peak moulting period for rabbits which means extra grooming needs to be done. Grooming is an all year round task but in the spring and in the autumn, large amounts of fur can get trapped in your pet's coat. As a result this can cause skin problems. Then, there is the risk of fly strike to consider so grooming is essential. The other risk is your pet may ingest excess fur when they groom themselves and this could prove to be deadly – so extra grooming can be life saving at this time of the year.
Your pet bunny will need a myxomatosis vaccination and the best time to arrange for them to have their jab is in the early spring. The other important vaccination, Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) can be given at any time but must be done every 12 months. However, the VHD vaccine should not be administered within two weeks of your rabbit getting its myxomatosis jab. The best time is to leave around three months between the two vaccinations.
Every rabbit is prone to get fly strike but with this said overweight animals and those with fur problems or dental problems as well as caecotroph retention issues are more likely to be high risk. As soon as the weather warms up, you will need to keep a close eye on the problem and if you find evidence of fly strike, then you need to deal with it immediately. Failure to do so could prove to be fatal. The other thing to watch out for with the warmer weather are biting insects which means it is the time of the year to invest in some safe, eco-friendly insect repellents.
Keeping hutches nice and clean is a monthly task that has to be done. However, May is the ideal month to really give outdoor hutches a good going over especially as bacteria thrives in hotter weather. A clean, disinfected hutch will keep bugs at bay and reduce the chances of your bunny suffering from fly strike. Rabbit urine can be particularly hard to remove because it goes like limescale – which means sometimes this needs to be scraped off – however a solution of vinegar and water or lemon are effective ways of getting rid of it. If you repeat the process in June, then all the better because you have set your bunny up for a good bug free summer!
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